God speaks to each of us as (she) makes us

Then walks with us silently out of the night

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,

Go to the limits of your longing

Embody me.

Flare up like flame

And make big shadows I can move in

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.

Just keep going. No feeling is final.

Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.

You will know it by its seriousness

Give me your hand.

(Rainer Maria Rilke)

I just spent a night consuming mind-numbing television, a favorite pastime of mine, especially while I’m in a foreign country. Typically, I’m not a consistent consumer of television, and what with our television being broken or unavailable while I was home, I was usually holed up in my bedroom reading a book or five. I love reading, but some days the brain is just in need of some deadening.

My brain has been busy as of late, scrolling through its rusty Rolodex of high school Spanish vocabulary, meeting new people, adjusting to a new home, a new schedule, a new job, and a new life. Oh, did I mention a different culture? Culture shock always knocks me off my rocker in the beginning and I wake up like a child from a confusing dream, bewildered and doing the eye rub.

I’m thinking about things like relationships, loss, leaving things behind, making decisions about my life and learning how to assimilate and conform less to the patterns of my friends, as an adolescent does, and more to the patterns of myself, and an inner voice that I should be listening to.

Most recently, I’ve been reading an informative book about my generation: Generation ME, the Trophy Kids, the Millennials. In learning about the various characteristics of my generation, I find myself constantly trying to categorize those characteristics: are they good, or are they bad? Is it black, or is it white? This is a debate that points so clearly to my personality type. I’m a Reformer, a 1 on the Enneagram, a person who is constantly looking for north, for the right thing, for the best decision.

In all of these struggles, both inward and outward, I want to know what is the best. What is the best for me. What is north? What is up? I want to crawl into my brain and carefully carve out the part of my brain that makes up who I am to the core: a seeker who constantly wants to know what is best. I fear, at times of incredibly overwhelming inner struggle, that this is the part of me that keeps me from truly experiencing life. I long for the freedom of the dancer.

I have always believed that I have a physical orientation for understanding where North is, no matter where I am. There’s a feeling of safety after you’ve been in a new place and you finally understand the context of where you are. I am very much a context person. But since I’ve been in Mexico, I’ve not become totally comfortable with where the sun rises and sets. I know in my brain that the sun rises at the front of Erin and Nathan’s house, and sets at the back. That means, when I’m sitting on their grey couch facing the living room window, north is to my left. Yet I cannot for the life of me make that mental knowledge spread through my body and become a part of my existence here. My body still believes that North is South. Maybe this disoriented feeling is exactly what I need at the moment.

Flare up like flame and make big shadows I can move in…. It’s not about knowing what’s north. Rilke didn’t say to walk the straight path towards God and to always know where North is. God, she says, invites us to flare up. Make shadows. Dance. That is true North.

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